Citadel Mosque

Citadel Mosque, Divrigi

Hadi Safeipour

Located on a hillside nearly halfway between the citadel and the lower town, the great mosque and hospital of Divriği is one of the most elaborately decorated medieval monuments in Anatolia. The complex consists of a hypostyle mosque with a two-story hospital, which includes a tomb. It was built in 1228-1229/626 by the Mengujukid emir Ahmet Shah, while Melike Turhan Melek, his wife, commissioned the hospital at the same time. The whole building is dominated externally by an eight-sided conical roof above the mihrab; another six-sided one above the tomb; two lanterns over the centre of the mosque and the hospital; a cylindrical minaret supported by a massive buttress on the northwest corner; and four elaborately carved monumental stone portals on the north, east and west. These features are banded through the unadorned plain exterior walls built of light yellow cut stone.

The mosque has two portals: one oriented towards the west and one towards the north. The main entrance is clearly the northern portal which is located directly opposite the mihrab and rises well above the height of the rest of the mosque. Like many contemporaneous cases, this portal is flanked by two engaged columns and surmounted by a muqarnas niche, embraced by pointed archivolts. Each engaged column is topped with a large muqarnas capital from which another column-like feature with a base and a bundled shaft rises towards the upper edge of the portal. This composition makes a grand rectangular frame wherein the portal is covered in elaborate high-relief carvings of floral and geometric motifs. Predominantly, motifs decorate the recessed areas around and above the doorway which is crowned by a large hexagonal motif. Two inscriptions – one contained in a band above the hexagonal motif and one just below the tip of the large niche – identify both the builder and date of the building.

The west portal is also articulated based on Seljuk architectural traditions. In comparison with the northern portal, this portal is smaller and less decorated. In the centre, there is a small round arch set above an inner frame. Within the frame, a five-tier muqarnas vault decorated with floral patterns covers the doorway. The surface of the portal is mostly decorated with low-relief floral patterns merged with geometric designs. The portal is connected to the west wall by means of two diagonal walls articulated with floral patterns and corbeled muqarnas niches: unique bird figures connect the portal to these side walls. On the eastern wall, there is another opening framed by a more typical portal design consisting of a muqarnas vault embraced by an arch and a rectangular frame, and eventually, two bands of low-relief geometric decoration. This feature may have served either as a window or, more likely, as a door giving restricted access to the interior of the mosque.

Inside the mosque the praying room is divided into five aisles consisting of five bays each. The central aisle is wider and given greater emphasis. It is marked with a lantern vault in the centre – that gives a small concentration of light to the space – and a ribbed maqsura vault over a lavishly decorated mihrab at the end. Other bays are roofed by a variety of intricately carved stone vaults including, but not limited to, cross-vaults, squinch vaults, groin vaults and a stellate vault. On the qibla wall a richly decorated minbar is placed. Built by Ahmad of Tiflis in 1241, this minbar is covered with Quranic inscriptions as well as polygonal, geometric and some floral patterns.

The hospital, occupying the southern third of the complex is entered through a monumental, elaborately carved stone portal on the west side. The portal consists of two slightly pointed arches, one set within the other, projecting from the wall of the hospital. Within the arches there is a rectangular recess in which the centrally located door is surrounded by elaborate decoration in relief, over which there is a large rectangular window with a column in the middle. Not as densely decorated as the north portal of the mosque, the hospital portal nonetheless displays motifs executed in similarly high-relief carving. These include stylized vegetal motifs, large projecting medallions in crescent surrounds filled with star motifs, as well as a pair of stylized floral forms surmounted by human heads.

The interior space of the hospital is a variation of the familiar madrasa plan with four iwans –one on each side – and two stories of rooms surrounding them around a covered court. The court is formed by four massive piers supporting a lantern with an oculus raised on four triangular pendentives over a central pool. One of the rooms, designated as the tomb chamber, is accentuated by a conical dome and provided with a window, opening into the interior of the mosque on its qibla wall. The vaultings within the hospital are intricately carved. A star-vault is found over the east iwan as well as barrel vaults, rib vaults, groin vaults, fan vaults and stellate vaults over other bays which are also finely constructed.

All in all, the whole complex represents one of the most unique masterpieces of three-dimensional carving that can be considered as a combination of Armenian, Georgian and Anatolian carving craftsmanship tied to Islamic and Iranian brick working patterns. This rich decorative character dominates all of the interior and exterior spaces and shapes: the portals, bases, shafts and capitals of the columns, and the inner surfaces of the dome and the vaults.

Interactive Plan

Image Gallery


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